Archives for posts with tag: Stage 1/Week 1

Well, this is almost one week down of this new life of mine.  It’s only temporary but it feels like it is never going to end.  My impatience is probably ridiculous, but I would like to be feeling much better than I am.

Overall I’m doing well, I think.  I slept pretty well last night after my sister, Alyssa, reconstructed her pillow jigsaw puzzle for me on the couch.  She took one for the team and slept on the couch with me in case I needed any help during the night.  I successfully got into and out of my make shift bed unassisted during the night, all without injury.  Today Alyssa helped me shower, washed my hair, and helped me get dressed.  It’s amazing how difficult getting back into everyday things has been.  I move like a sloth and it’s annoying.  It’s like it hurts to be slow.  I also can’t lie down for too long because my upper body gets very stiff if I do. My “new” accomplishments today:

1.  Washed myself unassisted in the shower (other than my hair);

2.  Got myself out of bed after my nap alone;

3.  Dressed myself alone;

4.  Walked 3 blocks (2 flat, one on a hill) with my sister; and,

5.  Opened my pill bottles by myself.

That last one, #5, might not seem like a big deal but opening a childproof pill bottle requires some grip strength and engaging of muscles I’ve recently had cut open.

I am not able to stand up straight today.  My lower back is really aching because of it, but my skin has not loosened enough around the Dermabond to let it happen.  Today we also had to call the triage nurse out my reconstructive surgeon’s office because my left “flap” has been seeping a lot of blood.  I saturated my surgical camisole and also a tank top my sister put on for me.  The nurse said that this was normal but to look for signs of infection (a stench, inflammation, running a fever).  The generally accepted “solution” to this additional leaking is to put a panty liner under the flap to absorb the blood.  Technology is amazing.

Here are some more photos of my progress.  Still pretty swollen; still pretty spooky.  But there’s progress.

Still a lot of swelling


***Scary post-op photos below; view at your own risk***

I just wanted to announce that I was discharged from the hospital at about 11:30 a.m. today and am typing this from the discomfort of my very own home office chair.  It felt like they were in dire need of vacant beds because the attending plastic surgeon, Dr. Louie (who did my DIEP flap reconstruction), the charge nurse and then the various other attendings all came to see me within a 2 hour window, all asking, “How do you feel about going home today?”  I knew my recovery was going well enough to leave, but a lot felt safe about staying in the hospital for one more day.  Plus, I was hoping that they’d take 3 out of 4 drains if I stayed 1 more day (but they only took 2/4).

I finally did get a chance to have someone from OT help me shower and “teach me” how to get dressed with my limitations.  After both of those experiences, I am pretty confident that any literate child over the age of 10 would’ve done just as good of a job “helping” me with these things.  My OT basically helped me get undressed, sat me on the shower chair and reminded me of all the various ways I couldn’t move my arms.  This would be helpful if I actually had the ABILITY to move my arms (or torso) in any of those directions and I really needed to back off of doing so.  But, at the moment, I look a lot like a Johnny 5 getting around anywhere.  My arms are so close to my sides (because of the discomfort and inflammation) that I can barely lift either one more than 10 degrees from my side or in front of me.  “Teaching me to get dressed” was much of the same.  She laid my clothes out on the bed for me and said, “Remember your limitations; now go ahead and try to get dressed.”  I brought my surgical camisole (which is a zip front and has drain pockets), a button down shirt (because I can’t lift my arms), sweat pants, and a pair of TOMS.  I thought all of these would be pretty easy for me to get into/out of during my recovery.  But I didn’t think about how much my limited range of motion would effect me. I was only successful in getting my shoes on unassisted.  The rest was just a short lived disaster.

When I put on a button down shirt, I basically get one arm through a sleeve, and then reach behind me to get my other arm through.  Because I can’t reach anywhere even close to behind me, I had to sort of pull my shirt up way too far on one side, and try to toss the excess over my other shoulder.  It was and is a total bullshit.  She was quick to add a lot of “No, no.  You’re going to hurt yourself!”, but nothing much else in the way of successful, pain free (or even pain light) techniques.

I feel like I hit a lot of milestones today for a lot of “can do” items.  I walked  a pretty significant distance from my hospital room, to the hospital pharmacy, and then to the car with Cate.  I didn’t wear my seat belt home (naughty, I know) because just the thought of that kind of pressure across my abdomen and my chest made me curl my face up.  When we got home I was able to walk up our entry way stairs, and up all of our stairs, unassisted.  I’m standing almost completely upright, but my skin across my abdomen is still pretty taught.  Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be standing up straight.  It hurts my lower back to be hunched over all the time, so the faster I’m upright the less I have to deal with back pain. I also stripped my drains by myself (which took me a surprising 15 minutes/side), was able to feed myself, put together a medication chart, go outside for a short walk with the girls while they rode their bikes, and got into and out of bed only 1 time unassisted.

I hurt myself trying to get out of bed alone after my nap today.  Those hospital beds being set at a pretty big incline make it so much easier to bring my knees up to my chest, sort of roll half onto my side, and then put one leg down, sit up a little more, put the other led down, then sit up straight.  Our bed is pretty low and even with the menagerie of pillows, I used my core too much and felt like my dermabond was going to split wide open.  Mike had to come in and help me up by pulling forward on my shoulders.  Other than that, I really felt tremendous pain two other times today at home.  The first time our cat, Kameha, jumped up on my back.  He has done this since he was a kitten.  It was cute when he was 6 months old and weighed 2 pounds.  But now that he’s 6 years old, weighs 9 pounds, and I can’t use my arms to get him off of my back (and the instant weight on me was killer, too), it was truly horrific.  I yelled for help until Cate was able to come and get him off me.  But, instinctively, I put my hands behind my back to pull him off.  This caused a searing pain across my chest, into my sternum, and throughout my abdomen.  I was sure I was going to start seeping blood from somewhere.  I had to just stand there for a few minutes and cry and then collect myself.  I have never had this experience with pain before.  Another complicating factor is that it hurts to cry, cough, breathe deeply, or even yell.  This is because the surgeons had to remove a small part of my ribs to reconnect the veins in my chest to my DIEP flap.  So my ribs (and sternum) are going to be pretty tender and very delicate for at least 4 weeks.  The second time I was in a lot of pain was unfortunately not too long after Kameha jumped on me.  I came downstairs to sit at the kitchen table and to have a glass of water.  I asked Mike to help me by putting his arms underneath my armpits and lifting straight up.  Either I didn’t explain well enough how his had to happen, or Mike missed the point.  He put his hands under my armpits and started to squeeze my ribs together as he was lifting up, and I immediately started crying and asked him to put me down.  I think I still hurt from this one, or it’s just a build up of both incidences.  I’m hopeful that I’ll feel better tomorrow and have zero occurrences like either of these.  Tomorrow is already looking much better than today.  My sister, Alyssa, arrives in the morning for a week to help me out during my recovery.  I can’t wait to see her.

As far as taking care of the girls, I still very much need assistance.  I can’t even hug them right now, which was pretty devastating to Olivia when I first came home.  We told them to be gentle because I have an “owie”, and I just showed her my bandage on my abdomen and nothing else.  She forgot a couple of times later in the afternoon that I was still out of commission and would cry that I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) pick her up or hold her.  Cate, my friend and our nanny, has been doing such a tremendous job with the girls.  It really is hard to express the depth of my gratitude for taking such good care of the girls and making the time pass so quickly with fun and outings when I was in the hospital.

Finally, I am posting more photos of how my body looks during this recovery time.  I’ll probably try to make a Flip video of myself getting around the house and out on walks just so other women can see how the range of motion is limited (hard to pick up your feet when your core is so sore).  I have very little to almost no bruising, which I was told I can thank my breast surgeon, Sara Javid, for using her delicate touch during the bilateral mastectomy.  My abdominal scar incision is a little off kilter.  I’m not sure why, but will ask Dr. Louie at my follow up visit in a week.

Other than that, the pictures just look a lot like I feel.  Uncomfortable.  Now would be the time to leave the blog unless you’re into looking at post op photos, seeping wounds, swelling, and all.

Frontal view of incisions, dermabond, DIEP flaps.

Right side of my body, 5 days post op.

Right side image of my body, 5 days post op.

I’m not sure if I should be counting the days the way that I am. I started my day counting with the date of my surgery as day one, because I was alert and “lucid” post op, or if I should have had the number one be the day after my surgery.

Regardless, today is a big day. I am being sent home! Dr. Daniel Z. Liu is the attending surgical resident. He and two other surgeons came in about 7:45 am and said that I could go home today. They then took out both JP drains in my breasts, removed my Doppler wires (which allowed them to listen to the blood flowing in and out of my veins in my reconstructed breasts), and took out my pain pump from my abdomen.

Having my drains pulled wasn’t as bad as I anticipated. I was expecting to feel them being tugged through my skin, but it seemed more like how I imagine it to feel when people do that trick of sending a spaghetti noodle through their nostrils.

I’m a little worried about going home. We have a lot of stairs I have to climb to get into bed. We also have cats and toddlers that typically want to climb all over me. I know I’ll be sad about being sidelined during the rest of my recovery but I really couldn’t be more thankful for getting this far free of complications and with an excellent surgical outcome.

Now I just wait and see how sore I get with having my drains pulled, wires pulled, some staples out, and my medication tapered.

So excited to go home though!!!


Just throwing this out there that you should preemptively cover your eyes for photos of the new belly boobs. If you are not interested in seeing how I am feeling and how my surgical sites are progressing, change the channel now!

Today was sort of a big day. I finally got moved out of the ICU and into a private patient recovery room. I wish that I could say I was getting more sleep now that I am in my own room, but they have started tapering down my drugs so I am left with more pain through out today. I understand that it is a necessary evil, but it still sucks.

Today I was able to get myself into and out of bed unassisted three times. When I was in ICU, I had a bedside commode after my catheter was pulled (because there are no in-room bathrooms in most of the ICU rooms).  I could get myself into/out of bed to use, but not really to ambulate or anything more than peeing and returning to bed.  I went for two hospital hallway walks with assistance. But I am incredibly sore and having a hard time feeling comfortable when back in bed.

I am also hopeful that two of my JP drains can be removed tomorrow. They’re all having a little bit of production, but not enough to just all four remaining in.

I also have this little pump thing from that is inserted into my abdomen to help alleviate the pain from my surgical site there. However, the pump has not been working at all since they implanted it. Despite me telling every nurses and healthcare provider here that has checked on me that this pump does not work, it still remains in place and not helping me at all. All it is really good for is me almost tripping on it when I get out of bed. Or for getting caught on things and tugging at my stitches. Not my favorite way to spend time with something.

Otherwise, I’m just hoping for some decent sleep tonight, and some JP drain removal tomorrow. I’ve been told that my reconstructed boobs are looking very good, but they’re very, very warm to the touch, and probably a bit crooked (which is normal and corrected at a later date). My pain today was probably at 5/10, with some fluctuation to higher numbers whenever I had to move around or had a drainage tube snag on something.

Cate has done a terrific job of keeping me updated about our girls, and also sending me pictures and videos of their daily activities. I miss them so much and cannot wait to get home to them. It will be a little confusing for them at first that I cannot provide care for them on my own, but I think that they’re having so much fun with Cate and all the different things they are doing with her, my husband, and mother in law.

In a few more days I will be home free, left somewhat on my own to heal at home, but also completely enjoying the fact that my sister Alyssa will be here in Seattle with me.

Until then, today’s scary pics are brought to you by dilaudid and being too sore to care.





I’m feeling a little less like all of my internal organs were removed, put in a cocktail shaker, vigorously tumbled, and put back into me without my knowledge. The first 48 hours were pretty brutal. I had to stay in bed, with only positional adjustments, up through today. That felt a lot like getting beaten with a baseball bat and told to lie down so the pain could really set in.

My JP Drains are as awful as I’ve read they were. I rolled over on them yesterday and my physical therapist almost completely yanked my two left drains out of me when trying to toss my menagerie of blankets off of me. She failed to appreciate that those “pesky blankets” were actually my drains she kept pulling on and trying to throw over the opposite the edge of the bed. It was horrific and both times I had a ton of pain both radiating from and almost down into my incisions.  I have a pain medication push button that I hit every time I see a doctor, nurse, janitor, or anyone (really) head my way.  If they’re not here to poke or prod me, they’re here to empty my drains, which is uncomfortable or worse when someone careless is doing it.  I also have to have blood drawn for labs every day – at least it seems like every day.  A phlebotomist is not called in to do this every time; I wish they were.  Some of these nurses couldn’t find a vein if I were split open on an operating table.

I’ve been felt up a out 200 different times by 200 different surgeons, residents, attendings, and my ICU nurse. They come into my room about every 2 hours to do checks on my flaps.  I have doppler wires inserted into the bottom of each flap, and they come in, turn on the audio speaker and press against my flaps so they can hear the “whoosh whoosh whoosh” of blood flowing into and out of them.  This is to ensure that the transplanted blood vessels and tissue are still up and running smoothly.  I’m told my mini muffins (because they were born from the muffin top) are looking good and healing fantastically. But they feel like hell.

It is hard to sit or lie down with my arms to the side, it hurts to take deep breaths but I have to so that my lungs clear, and I also cannot use my arms for much of anything. This is life for the next 4 weeks and no me gusta.  The ICU nurses are kind enough to come in every now and again and try to adjust my pillows to help me.  The time spent adjusting hurts; the ability to rest in a different position is nice.

They’ve been trying to get me out of ICU and into a regular patient room since last night. I’ve already had one roommate nearly die since I’ve been in the ICU, which was sad and scary but also very intriguing to see the entire ICU staff working on that lady. My roommate now has been sedated almost the entire time because she is physically combative whenever they take her out of twilight. Word on the ward is that she has been waiting for a liver transplant for several years, has hepatitis c and was still drinking until she was admitted the other day. Some sad things going on around here. But I lived through my surgery and get to have pain medication pretty soon here. I’m not stoked that they’re already talking about taking me off of dilaudid and giving me just Tylenol. I feel like that warrants me peeing on this floor a few times until they get the hint (I’d yell but my voice is still hoarse from intubation). In the interim I’m just taking pain induced naps, watching videos of our girls, and trying to stream Netflix in this shitty wi-fi.

Beware. Scary pics attached.
May I introduce to you the newest members of the GM cereal line: BooBerry, Count Chocula, and Frankenboobies.





Awake. Lots of pain. No voice. Thanks for all the sweetness.